One year later: “Plaza Shopping Center improved since gambling machine raids”

MSHP says perspective is unchanged on legality of gambling devices
The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) says its perspective has been unchanged on pre-reveal gambling devices since.
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 4:58 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2022 at 7:49 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) says its perspective is unchanged on pre-reveal gambling devices since a raid in June of 2021.

In June of 2021, Troop D coordinated multiple raids across Springfield, seizing such gambling machines from gas stations and internet cafes.

On June 14 of last year 35 gambling machines were seized from Lucky Lynns in the Plaza Shopping Center at the corner of Glenstone Avenue and Sunshine Street.

“Nothing has changed from our perspective,” said Capt. John Hotz with MSHP public information and education division. “We get calls for the devices, we conduct investigations, and then turn them over to the prosecutor.”

Capt. Hotz says it is not the role of MSHP to determine the legality of such devices. While business owners in the Plaza Shopping Center think it is a no-brainer.

“They go in there, I don’t know exactly how it works, but they go in there expecting to win money,” said Steve Austin, with Coopers Clippers. “Get more money than they started with, so it’s gambling.”

Austin says since the raid last year, there has been a heavier police presence in the shopping center, and there seems to be improvement despite Lynns and other businesses in the strip reinstalling similar gambling machines.

“There was a lot of riff-raff and then we had that one raid on Lucky Lynns,” said Austin. “So, police are here every day. They drive through the parking lot, hang out in the parking lot, everything much better now.”

With the increased enforcement in the area, Springfield Police Department (SPD) says the Plaza Shopping Center has been a part of a focused enforcement effort to target crime hot spots.

“Where Plaza shopping centers located happens to be one of the first hot spots we’ve identified,” said Capt. Fred Beck with SPD. “So, it’s probably gotten a little bit more enforcement throughout time.”

Beck says the crimes analysis unit has identified several other hot spot locations that have been opened to opportunists for officers to work extra duty to patrol those areas.

Blake Sherer, Platte County Asst. Prosecutor told KODE-TV in Joplin in an interview in 2021 that he estimates more than 14,000 gambling machines across the state. Unlike machines in casinos or the state lottery, these are unregulated in Missouri.

So are they illegal or not? There is no clear legislation against them, and court rulings have differed.

In May, one of the state’s largest providers of pre-reveal gambling machines, Torch Electronics, contributed $240,000 to political action committees intending to prevent legislation against the machines.

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